Chemists keen to build up management skills might be interested in Strathclyde's part-time MSc in chemical technology and management, writes Yfke Hager

Chemists keen to build up management skills might be interested in Strathclyde’s part-time MSc in chemical technology and management, writes Yfke Hager

Technical prowess alone won’t get you ahead in today’s challenging job market. Chemists keen to progress their industrial careers must continually expand their expertise and knowledge on the job, but experienced scientists looking to move into senior roles may find their career progression impeded by a lack of management qualifications. As an alternative to a standard MBA, chemists could opt for an MSc in chemical technology and management at the University of Strathclyde, UK, which offers a mix of management elements and modules specifically aimed at developing technical competence.

Since 1996, the University of Strathclyde has offered an MSc in process technology and management, having secured funding from the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council to create a graduate development programme for chemical engineers. The business and academic partners responsible for developing the course strived for a balance between modules, to ensure that chemical engineers could not only update their technical expertise but also acquire the management skills necessary to put their scientific proficiency to good use. ’In 2003, a complementary course specifically designed for chemists was created in conjunction with the Royal Society of Chemistry,’ explains course manager Kenneth Moffat. ’The existing process technology course was modified to create a new qualification, by replacing the chemical engineering modules with content that meets the requirements of chemists working in the chemical, pharmaceutical and process industries.’



Management skills under the microscope

Successful delegates for the course are typically chemists who completed a first degree four to five years ago, are working in R&D, manufacturing or business management, and are ready to transition to a more senior role. ’Because the course is so industry-focused, we carefully consider each applicant’s qualifications and employment history on a case-by-case basis,’ says Moffat. The industry-oriented approach makes the course ideal for senior industrial chemists who are not solely managers, but whose jobs have a strong technical component, he adds. ’The course reflects the needs of the evolving modern job market, which requires skilled chemists with an awareness of business considerations.’

Delegates must complete a total of 12 modules and a major industry-based project to be awarded an MSc. The taught content comprises nine core modules and three electives normally completed within three years of part-time distance learning study. Alternatively, delegates can opt for a 10-module Post Graduate Diploma (PGDip) or 5-module Post Graduate Certificate (PGCert) qualification, which can be completed in two years and one year, respectively.

Course modules are taught by academics from the University of Strathclyde graduate business school and departments of pure and applied chemistry, chemical and process engineering and information technology, as well as specialists from industry. Core modules include management of technological innovation, intellectual property rights management, process design, accountancy and finance, human resources management and IT strategies, while elective modules include molecular modelling, chemical reactor design and manufacturing technology. ’All of the modules are designed to highlight key principles of interest from the chemist’s perspective,’ says Moffat. ’The balance of technical versus management components is flexible and can be tailored to the individual’s requirements.’

The MSc is offered as a part-time distance learning course, allowing delegates to continue their professional development while holding down a job. ’It requires considerable dedication and commitment to complete the coursework alongside a job,’ Moffat notes. Not only should delegates expect to dedicate around eight to 12 hours per week to self-study, but they should also aim to participate in eight to 12 days of workshops a year. As well as providing face-to-face tutorial time and seminar work, the workshops encourage networking between delegates and enable the delegates to attend lectures by external providers. ’Work comes first,’ says Moffat, who explains that the workshops are scheduled in two one-week blocks, to enable delegates to manage their time off work.

While some course materials are paper-based, many of the modules also have online elements. Coursework can be uploaded onto the course website, with course lecturers returning comments by email or via the website. Lecturers are always available by phone and email to offer support on assignments, and while the final year project is undertaken at the delegate’s workplace, an academic lecturer supervises the work. ’Quite often employers sponsor their employee’s studies,’ says Moffat. ’By conducting the project in the delegates’ own workplace, the course offers payback to the company. Many companies see study sponsorship as an excellent way to develop and retain staff.’ 

Yfke Hager is a freelance writer based in Manchester, UK 

Further Reading

For more information on the MSc in Chemical Technology and Management at the University of Strathclyde, contact Kenneth Moffat, or visit the course on the website